Food for Thought out of the Commonwealth North Health Care Action Coalition Meeting

Last week, the Commonwealth North Health Care Action Coalition was briefed by Dan Robinson, Chief of Research and Analysis with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, on the newly released occupational forecasts for 2010 to 2020 as it relates to health care and an aging population.

Robinson noted that Health & Social Services jobs are growing at much higher rates than other sectors. Personal care aides and nurses are the fasted growing professions in Alaska and home health is close behind in fourth.

Graph showing 2010 to 2020 Industry Forecast and 
            projected new jobs

This growth is not new, he says. It was the same way in the 1990’s. The difference is, back then, we didn’t think it was a sustainable pattern. From 2001-2010 the state saw 51% growth in health care. And that’s not discretionary spending either, he says. The recession would have hit the state much harder without health care as a cushion. Robinson continues to see strong growth trends in health care, with no clear signs of these trends slowing.

To reinforce these trends, Robinson warns beware, the baby boomers are coming. They will require additional health care capacity, though the question remains whether Alaska baby boomers will retire in or out of state. High wages brought an influx of baby boomers in the 1980’s. The expectation is that residents will retire in Alaska at the same rate, though some former residents will return and have their children take care of them and vice verse.

Robinson’s briefing shed light on the “other side” of health care in the state. The cost of health care usually grabs the attention in the headlines, but it’s important to remember that health care is a major economic driver in the state as well.